Hurricane-force winds pound UK and Europe, halt travel

National and World News

LONDON (AP) — Storm Ciara battered the U.K. and northern Europe with hurricane-level winds and heavy rains that halted flights and trains Sunday and produced heaving seas that closed down ports. Soccer games, farmers’ markets and other events were canceled as authorities urged millions of people to stay indoors, away from falling tree branches.

Named by the U.K. Met Office weather agency, the storm brought massive gusts that hit 93 mph (150 mph) at the northern Welsh village of Aberdaron and 86 mph (138 kph) at the Welsh town of Capel Curig. Storm surges ate away at beaches and pounded rock cliffs and cement docks.

In response, the Met Office issued 190 emergency flood warnings and another 170 flood watch alerts, urging people not to try to drive through flooded roads.

Residents in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in northwest England battled to protect their homes amid severe flooding as the River Eden burst its banks.

Three people were injured after a pub roof partially collapsed Saturday evening in the city of Perth in central Scotland.

At least 10 rail companies in Britain sent out “do not travel” warnings, while nearly 20 others told passengers to expect extensive delays. The strong winds damaged electrical wires and littered train tracks with broken tree limbs and other debris, including a family trampoline.

London’s Heathrow Airport and several airlines consolidated flights Sunday to reduce the number canceled by heavy winds. British Airways offered to rebook customers for domestic and European flights out of Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports. Virgin Airlines canceled some flights.

Brussels Airport also saw delays or cancellations.

Two huge ports on either side of the English Channel, Dover in England and Calais in France, shut down operations amid high waves. Ferries were canceled across the region, including in the turbulent Irish Sea.

The Humber Bridge in northern England also shut down, a move its website said was only the second time the massive bridge had been entirely closed.

Breaking with her usual Sunday routine, Queen Elizabeth II did not attend church in Sandringham due to high winds.

A cow was spotted on a main highway in southern England after high winds blew down fences.

Heavy snow was predicted for Monday in some parts of the U.K.

In Ireland, power was knocked to an estimated 10,000 homes, farms and businesses. National weather agency Met Eireann warned that a combination of high tides, high seas and stormy conditions had created a significant risk of coastal flooding, particularly in the west and northwest.

Fierce winds knocked out electricity in northern France as well. Parks and cemeteries in the city of Lille and nearby towns shut down as strong winds cracked heavy branches and threatened to fell trees. Open-air markets also closed early Sunday.

Luxembourg announced that all schoolchildren could stay home Monday as a result of the storm.

In Germany, where the storm is known as “Sabine,” national railway operator Deutsche Bahn canceled long-distance trains to destinations most at risk from the storm, including Emden and Norddeich in Germany’s northwestern corner, the northern city of Kiel and the North Sea island of Sylt.

In the world of sports, dozens of soccer games, horse races, rugby matches and other events were called off, including the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham. A 10k run in London that was expected to draw 25,000 participants was also canceled.

The Dutch football association called off all matches Sunday in the top-flight league due to safety concerns, as did Belgium’s top two soccer leagues, the Jupiler Pro League and Proximus League.

A German soccer league match between title challenger Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne was also canceled.

Yet in the Netherlands, an intrepid band of cyclists made the most of the wild conditions to take part in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships.

Using only basic bikes with no gears, carbon race frames or drop handlebars, 300 contestants rode a timed 8.5-kilometer (5.3-mile) course along the coast of southern Zeeland province. Blasted by winds, blinded by blowing sand from nearby beaches, the cyclists struggled to stay upright.

“I survived, but it’s very tough,” said 56-year-old Hans Deting, his right hand dripping with blood after being blown off his bike.

“This is a bucket list thing,” Edwin van Gaalen explained, as he leaned, gasping for breath, on his handlebars after finishing.


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